Paraneoplastic anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis in 1830?

Objective

Our aim was to identify patients with probable anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis among historical medical cases.

Method

A case report published in leading Hungarian-, German- and Italian-language medical journals in the early 1840s was revisited.

Results

In 1830, an 18-year-old, healthy woman suffered epileptic seizures, followed by a 6-day-long state characterized by catalepsy, unresponsiveness, motionless, and light breathing. Her symptoms regularly returned in the following 1.5 years. Meanwhile, a progressively growing huge abdominal tumor appeared. One day, she suddenly started vomiting a large amount of foul-smelling pus mixed with blood, accompanied by bone fragments. Pus mixed blood with some membranous substance was also evacuated through the anus and vagina. After this event, she completely recovered; 1.5 years later, she married and later gave birth to 3 healthy children. The patient remained healthy during the 11-year follow-up.

Conclusions

We suggest that in the description of a paraneoplastic case, an anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis can be dated back as far as to the 19th century, with an especially rare type of resolution: the disappearance of the symptoms after the spontaneous elimination of an ovarian teratoma.

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